Becoming a Conscious Meat Eater
As our understanding of nutritional and environmental sciences continues to evolve, it is becoming more clear that raising and eating animals is essential to the health of both humans and the planet. This may sound like a bold statement but if we return to our natural state of living pre-agriculture, animals and humans lived in harmony and our wise ancestors knew that without animals we would not have survived very long.
Unfortunately there has been a strong vilification of eating meat and raising livestock with the widespread belief that both are major drivers of human disease and destruction of the planet. As per usual, the devil is in the details and in our binary way of thinking we often label all animal products as “bad” basically assuming that 1 pound of grass-fed beef raised on a regenerative farm is equivalent to 1 pound of factory farmed beef in a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO).
Obviously when you frame it like that, both options have dramatically different nutritional content and environmental impact. Therefore, the conversation needs to shift from ‘how can we reduce the consumption of animal products’ to ‘how can we find ways to eat animal products in a conscious way that is both ethical and responsible’.
Seek Out QUALITY Animal Products
In terms of human health, the first thing we need to do is ensure we are consuming the best quality animal products possible. If you’re an ethical hunter/fisher, you can probably skip this section as you already have access to the Rolls Royce of animal products. For the rest of us, it’s essential that we find animals that live a life as close to nature as possible. Just as twinkie’s aren’t real food for humans, GMO corn and soy (and God knows what else is fed to animals in CAFO’s) are not proper foods for cows, chicken, pigs and other domesticated animals. The conditions that these animals live in is horrific and their health is a direct reflection of the environment they live in. If you eat sick animals, you will become sick. It’s as simple as that!
Look for farmers that raise grass-fed (and grass-finished) beef, and pasture raised chicken, pork, lamb etc. For seafood, always opt for wild-caught. Unfortunately the term organic alone doesn’t mean much when it comes to animal products as the animals are usually just fed organic grains that still aren’t part of a natural diet for them. To make things more difficult, there is no stringent “grass-fed” or “pasture-raised” certification that ensures quality so it’s best to find a nearby farm yourself and see first hand how the animals are raised.
If you think you don’t have access to a local farm, look harder. If you still don’t have access to a local farm, look for products at the grocery store that are labelled grass-fed, pasture-raised, certified organic, free-range, or at the very least, free from hormones and antibiotics.
Eat Nose to Tail
After you have found top-notch quality animal products, the next thing to do is eat a wide variety of them. When I say wide variety, I’m not only referring to different animals but different parts of the animal. When was the last time you ate organ meat? Most of us in western culture turn our nose up to the thought of eating chicken liver or beef heart yet organs were the MOST highly valued foods of our ancestors. We have developed a liking to muscle meat and muscle meat only but the problem is that other parts of the animal are far more nutrient dense. Brain, heart, kidney, liver and bone marrow (and many more) were the OG superfoods! There are several key nutrients in organs that are very difficult to obtain from other food sources and are commonly deficient in today’s society.
Eating nose to tail provides a complete nutrient profile as each part of the animal works in synergy with one another to help with absorption & has a balancing effect. For example, ever heard of red meat being “bad for you”? This is because the methionine in muscle meats isn’t being balanced with the glycine in connective tissues, which raises homocysteine levels (a risk factor for heart disease). Homocysteine recycling also requires B6, B12, folate, betaine and choline which are found in organ meats, and not as abundant in muscle meats. Or, for a more straight forward example, many nutrients found in muscle meats need fat in order to be absorbed which are lacking with the “lean” cuts we often find in grocery stores.
So, eat your organ meats! A great place to start is bone broth – it is delicious and packed full of nutrients! Just remember that toxins are stored in fat, so we really don’t want to be eating an animal raised in a poor quality environment as we will just be eating their stored toxins. This is another reason to find a local farmer as it is nearly impossible to find good quality organ meats in a grocery store! And honestly, you will be pleasantly surprised at how cheap some of these superfoods are!
Beef tongue is a another great organ meat to try because it is actually quite tasty and packed full of nutrients. Check out our recipe on Beef Tongue Tacos!
Support Adequate Farming Practices
Beyond meat quality, we must consider the environmental impact of the animal products we choose to consume. There are several myths surrounding the impact of raising livestock such as “cow farts are the #1 contributor of carbon emissions globally.” 125,000 years ago the average mammal was 500kg, now it is 9kg. If animal farts were really the leading cause of climate change surely these megafauna would have destroyed the planet during the millions of years they inhabited Earth. Though we certainly wouldn’t argue the detrimental impact of conventional farming practices, Netflix documentaries often paint an inaccurate unscientific view of current environmental issues and provide incomplete solutions.
Fortunately there ARE solutions such as regenerative and biodynamic farming which not only reduce but REVERSE environmental damage. These farming practices focus on restoring soil and ecological health by mimicking nature. They typically include a wide variety of plants and animals to promote diversity and resilience the way nature intended. (Shameless hypocritical Netflix documentary plug- check out “The Biggest Little Farm” to see how regenerative farming can restore ecosystems). Some regenerative farms have demonstrated that they actually have a net NEGATIVE carbon impact due to such healthy soils that sequester large amounts of carbon. This may be our only way out as our current farming practices for both plants and animals are simply not sustainable. Find a farm near you that uses regenerative or biodynamic farming practices, not only is it some of the highest quality food for your body, but your dollars are going towards saving the planet.
Lastly, we must be grateful for the animal that we are consuming. Gratitude is a powerful practice that should be extended to all food we consume, as life is also taken when we harvest and eat plants and fungi. The convenience of being able to purchase perfect boneless pre-packaged meat from the grocery store has disconnected us from the reality that an animal was killed in order to feed us. Even the labelling of most meats (beef, pork, veal) disconnects us from the animal on our plate. If we were involved in the killing or butchering process, I’m sure we would have a much greater appreciation for the food on our plate. Next time you sit down to eat, take a deep breath and thank the animals, farmers, plants, microorganisms in the soil and any other living being involved in the process of putting food on your plate.
The biggest barriers we have come across to eating this way are availability and price. Finding a local farm is your best bet, many of these farms also deliver to major cities in Ontario. Another option is to find a company that delivers meat, here are a few options.
Buying from a meat distribution company can be expensive so we personally recommend buying in bulk from a farmer. You can usually buy a ¼, ½ or full animal at a significantly reduced price. If this is too much for your needs consider splitting with family or friends. Buying a whole/large part of an animal ensures you are getting multiple different cuts. Don’t forget to request a variety of organ meats and bones!
Lastly, if it’s something that resonates with you, consider hunting or fishing. This is arguably the most ethical way to source animal products and also provides the highest level of nutrition (assuming the animals are living in a healthy environment). Check out huntandfishontario.com to learn more about the rules and regulations in Ontario.
Be sure to check out our recent blog on the optimal diet for humans!
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